David H. Cochran hadn't planned to spend Friday on a 13-hour tour of Washington and Baltimore. But the man giving the orders had a gun, and Mr. Cochran didn't argue.
Mr. Cochran, 34, supervisor of sign operations for the State Highway Administration, was abducted at 7 a.m. when he stopped for gas a few blocks from his home in Brooklyn Park. He was forced to drive his two kidnappers many miles on a meandering route through both cities.
Finally, at about 7:45 p.m., in a Baltimore neighborhood Mr. Cochran didn't recognize, his abductors told him to stop. One of them punched him in the face and muttered, "This is your lucky day." Then they jumped from his car.
"I've never been so scared in my life," he said yesterday, his voice full of emotion. "I shook all day long. I really thought I was a dead man."
Mr. Cochran was headed for his office near Baltimore-Washington International Airport when he stopped at a gas station at Ritchie Highway and Church Street to put $5 worth of gas in his gray 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass. He was getting back into his car when the men approached.
One, a heavyset man in blue jeans and a plaid shirt, showed a black semiautomatic handgun. "Get in the car now," he said.
Mr. Cochran obeyed.
The gunman got in the back seat, directly behind him. The second man, who was taller, had a mustache, and wore baggy black pants and a black hooded sweat shirt, sat in front.
The gunman ordered Mr. Cochran to hand over his money and wallet, and warned him against trying to escape. "Don't try anything," Mr. Cochran heard him say, "because, believe me, we're not afraid to use the gun."
Following their directions, Mr. Cochran drove to Washington. Speaking little to him or to each other, they directed him around "run-down neighborhoods," asking him to stop about half a dozen times.
"They say, 'Turn here, turn there,' " Mr. Cochran said. They never appeared to hesitate and seemed to know Washington well, he said.
At each stop, the tall man would get out of the car and disappear around a corner, returning after as long as 45 minutes. Mr. Cochran speculated that the man may have been buying or selling drugs.
About 2 p.m., the men ordered him to head north to Baltimore. Again they directed him through rowhouse neighborhoods, stopping "10 or 20 times" while the taller man ran his errands.
"They were just using me as a taxi," said Mr. Cochran.
A few times, when he stopped at red lights, he considered trying to run; twice in Baltimore he spotted police cars and considered signaling for help. Thinking of the gun, Mr. Cochran said, he remained silent.
Mr. Cochran, who grew up in Crofton and moved to Brooklyn Park three years ago, said he does not know Washington or much of Baltimore beyond Harborplace. Because of his unfamiliarity and his fear, he recalls few details of his route, he said.
Neither did he have any idea where he was when the men left the car. Mr. Cochran said he drove aimlessly for half an hour until he spotted an elevated section of Russell Street and got his bearings. Then he drove home and leaned on his horn.
Mr. Cochran's girlfriend, Beth Kirkey, 33, had learned from his secretary early that morning that he had never appeared at the office. She was at his home, frantic with worry, and she ran outside to meet him.
Anne Arundel County police sent Mr. Cochran by ambulance to Harbor Hospital, where his minor facial injuries were checked. Police took his car to dust it for fingerprints.
Police last night were looking for the two kidnappers, whom Mr. Cochran described as black males, probably between 25 and 30 years old. Police were also keeping an eye on Mr. Cochran's house, because his abductors took his wallet and are presumed to know his address.
Mr. Cochran was at home with Ms. Kirkey yesterday, nursing his black eye. Never before the victim of any crime worse than a theft from his parked car, he had slept little and kept reliving his terrifying ride.
"You hear about this stuff all the time," he said. "But when it happens to you, it comes as a total shock."